May 29, 2009


Most of us who are even slightly familiar with the story of Hosea only know the beginning of the story - that God calls Hosea to marry Gomer (a prostitute) so that He can illustrate how His people are "in bed" with other gods and (through Hosea) to show that His love for us is unceasing and unconditional. It's an amazing story. But again, it's only the beginning. It happens so that what the Lord is about to say to His people makes more sense - that they have turned from Him and been seduced by the world.

At The Brook, we're in the middle of a 2-week series called "Treasure". Last week we asked the question - in thinking about all that God has given us - are you living like you're the Rightful Owner (or) the Faithful Manager? This is the foundational question to ask in regards to stewardship.

Another issue that comes up for us as followers of Christ in regards to our "Treasure" is this idea or principle of being "blessed". You hear it preached a lot these days that the Lord wants to "bless" you - you just need to ask Him. Well, this is true. But I think this idea has been grotesquely misconstrued by many who simply want more money. The biblical idea of "blessing" does not by any means always refer to financial reward. In fact, I would dare say that it rarely refers to it in that sense. Jesus meant a great deal when he talked about how difficult it is for a rich person "to enter the Kingdom of Heaven". He knows how difficult it is for us when we get our hands on what we really think we want to actually release our grip and give it away.

So, what does this have to do with Hosea? Good question. As the Lord is beginning to describe in detail how His people have turned away from Him and the discipline that He finds necessary to wake them from the dead spiritually, He says something that cuts straight to the heart of this issue. In Hosea 10:1 it says, "How prosperous Israel is - a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit! But the more wealth the people got, the more they poured it on the altars of foreign gods. The richer the harvests they brought in, the more beautiful the statues and idols they built. The hearts of the people are fickle...."

God knows our hearts. He knows the difference between what we WANT and what we NEED. And yes, there are times that He gives us what we want. But thankfully, He loves us enough to often protect us from actually getting our hands and hearts wrapped around it. He knows our motives - even when we don't! And there are many who actually want more so that they can give it away. The Lord knows their hearts as well. Keep in mind: the Lord is the ultimate steward!

There is much more to say about all of this.
Hope to see you Sunday!

May 21, 2009

The Future of The Brook (Core Values)

In this "Purpose Driven Church" world (no offense to Rick Warren) we are living in a culture where every other church down the street is looking for that magic formula that someone else has written to finally take their church to the next level. Pastors go to conferences in desperate need of returning with some morsel of creative or innovative genius that they can steal - excuse me, I mean borrow - and subversively sneak into the fabric of their own church's vision. How do I know this? Because I've played this game myself. After playing and watching for years now, here's what I know: it doesn't work!

Here at The Brook we have entered into a season of birthing, declaring, reciting, and anchoring everything we ARE and everything we DO into very simple, biblical Core Values. As a church - as individuals & as a corporate body - we are called to Worship, Grow & Serve. Period. Look at it again and think on it for a moment:


As we enter this new season together, everything we do will be birthed from or feeding into 1 of these 3 Core Values. If it's not - [HOLD YOUR BREATH] - we will most likely not be focusing our time, attention, or spiritual energy in that direction. And not only will this be our corporate map, we will also encourage every member of The Brook (and every follower of Christ for that matter) to cultivate their own walk rooted in these Core Values.

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to determine if these Core Values are being practiced in your life or if there is room for improvement:

- Are you making time weekly to actively participate in corporate worship with your church family? Our worship together includes: singing & declaring praise to God; teaching the Word of God; praying with & for one another; confessing our sin to God & one another; actively being part of the fellowship; giving our tithes & offerings.

- Are you growing in your walk with Christ? Are you growing not only in your knowledge of His Word, but in discovering what it means in your everyday life? Are you growing in relationships with other believers? And because we believe this is where this growth most ideally takes place: Are you actively involved in a Life Group?

- Are you serving others in the church - living for the sake of others? Are you serving those in your neighborhood, your workplace, your class - those in the community around you? Are we serving at home & abroad as a church?

Think through these questions. Pray about these Core Values.
More to come....

May 18, 2009

The Future of The Brook (Telling Our Story)

When you think about WHAT the church - and more specifically, YOUR church - is called to do, lots of churchy terms can come into play. And in all fairness maybe they're not churchy, they're just so overused & misused that we've become disenchanted and intimidated by them. One term that comes to my mind is "sharing your faith" or "witnessing". In general, the idea of taking on this responsibility intimidates and frightens most Christians. At the same time - if the Great Commission is still our mandate - it's what we're called to do. That said, I'd like for you to think about it another way.

Think about one of your co-workers. Or how about that man/woman who lives down the street that you've been casually getting to know these last months. What about that parent you keep running into in your child's class. Think of someone in your life whom you might have thought their acquaintance was insignificant. Now think about this: Doesn't that person have a story? Haven't they certainly been through things in their own life that have shaped who they are and what they're like? Of course. And what about you? Don't you have a story? Of course you do. And the beauty is - as a follower of Jesus Christ - HE is the thing that has changed your story forever!

You see, everyone has a story. And in reality, most people are in desperate need of finding someone who cares enough to listen to their story. Many are afraid or skeptical to share their story because their trust has been abused or because they've been made to feel more like a project than a person. I'm pretty sure that Christ has called us to care about their story. In doing so, we will often find them wanting to know our story. And forgive me for being redundant, but the beauty is that OUR story is now part of HIS story. I can't share my story without sharing that the love of Jesus Christ has changed me forever! Can you?

And in regards to you, maybe you've been trying to convince yourself that your story is insignificant. WRONG! That's a lie from the pit of hell! What the Lord has allowed you to walk through - your joys, trials, pains, hurts, wounds, dreams - it has all been for a reason. There is someone out their who needs to hear your story. It may not have happened yet, but one day you'll meet that person that only you can look in the face and say, "I understand!" Trust me. That day will come.

At The Brook, it's time that we embrace our story. Not only as individuals, but as a church! In 11 very short years this church family has been through much: trial, pain, grief, loss, renewal, restoration - all with the hope & faith that God is in control, in the middle of it all, weaving His handiwork through sorrow and suffering to change us and advance His Kingdom. Whether you've been here 2 months or 10 years, YOU have a story! And there are people in your life waiting to tell their story - waiting to know that someone in the universe will listen and will care.

WHO are we? WHAT are we called here to do?
I think it's pretty simple.
"Real People, Discovering Together that Our Story is Part of His Story."

Are you listening? Are you hearing their story?
Are you telling yours? Are you looking for that opportunity?

More to come......

May 16, 2009

The Future of The Brook (Less is More)

This past Thursday night in our Leadership Forum we began the conversation about where we are headed as a church - discovering WHO God has called us to be as a body and WHAT He has called us to do. I'm fairly sure that no one person could have absorbed all that we talked about - and we didn't even come close to covering everything. The conversation is just beginning! This is why in the weeks to come I want to address several of the opportunities that lie in our path as a church.

One opportunity that we have at The Brook is to simplify! Thom Ranier makes the statement in his book, Simple Church, "As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive." I think it's fair to say that while we may not be a very complex church, we by all means are a bit cluttered! You can reach a point where there are so many things to choose from - so many ministries trying to wrangle, recruit, and accomplish - that people don't know where to start or what to choose. And most often - in this situation - people will choose not to choose. They're left paralyzed.

It's no secret that I'm a minimalist. I'm not sure if it's time, experience, my ADD, or all of the above, but I've gotten to a place where complex just won't cut it for me. Less is more! And this applies in so many ways to so many things. In our case, MORE INFO = LESS CLARITY. Too much info tears the big picture into so many small pieces that vision is hopelessly lost. And bringing it even closer to home, more ministries, more events, more teams, the more more more we add of this and that to the picture...CLARITY is forfeited. As the people of God we cannot sacrifice being clear about WHO we are and WHAT the Lord has called us to do.

This clarity we're talking about has to do with being clear about our vision. I'm going to talk more about this in my next post. Until then keep thinking on this idea of less is more. I leave you with Aubrey Malphurs wisdom on this matter: "You won't do ministry that really matters until you define what really matters!" The days ahead at The Brook are about defining what really matters.

Info & Quotes included from Church Unique, by Will Mancini.

May 4, 2009

Super Spiritual Secret Decoder Language

It's not really a secret to those who know me well that I'm quite annoyed & disillusioned with churches that attempt to get the attention of the general public by putting catchy spiritual phrases on their signs. You know the ones I speak of don't you?

"CH CH. What's missing? U R!"
"Reboot your life. Jesus saves!"
"Give God what's right, not what's left."
"Hell is un-cool."
"Fight Truth Decay - study the Bible."

Is there no one in these churches that understands that this communicates nothing effective to those who don't know Christ? Reading in 1 Corinthians 14 this morning, Paul is addressing the priority of prophecy over speaking in tongues. He is explaining that it's much more edifying to the church to speak a word of encouragement or comfort than one that no one else understands but you. In verse 9 he explains that "if you talk to people in a language they don't understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room."

Hey church! Are you talking to an empty room?

Many of these churches probably have great theological or cultural issues with the gift of tongues - speaking in a language that others can't understand. But when we attempt to talk in our "super spiritual secret decoder language"...aren't we doing the exact same thing? Who is it exactly that we're trying to communicate the Gospel to? Who is this message for? Did Jesus come to seek and save those who are lost? Are did He come to talk in special catch phrases to everyone in His club?

I know - prophecy is for the benefit of believers. But read on. Paul explains that even if "people who don't understand these things come...and listen...their secret thoughts will be laid bare, and they will fall down on their knees and worship God, declaring, 'God is really here among you.'"

As followers of Christ, what are we saying to those around us who don't know Him? What Gospel are we communicating? Because the Jesus I know and the Gospel that saved me and the depth of soul-changing that comes from the Word of God is way too important to trivialize on a sign or a T-shirt.

"I would rather speak five understandable words that will help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language."

1 Corinthians 14

May 2, 2009

Singing Over Me

On a day like today - when it's raining, I'm sick, motivation has fallen off the radar, and all I'm really thinking is, "Get through this day! Maybe tomorrow will be better" - there is no better time to call out to the Redeemer and ask Him to draw your heart in close. Days like this call for Psalms.

Psalm 1 has reminded me this morning that there is overwhelming delight in knowing the Lord - there is joy in the chorus of His Word resonating through the corridors of your heart and mind. There is satisfaction found in Christ that is discovered nowhere else - in no other person or place - in no other name than the One that saves. And knowing that even when I don't feel like seeking, trusting, communing, or resting in Him...He is singing over me, pouring out rest and comfort and perfect love.

Lord, make us a light when we don't feel like shining. Give us rest when we keep on running. And when necessary...ground our ship. Knock us over. Slow us down. And remind us that all we need is found in You.

"Lord, Your songs have never stopped. You're always singing over me!"
Thank you.